The Doors: The End

This is the end, beautiful friend 
This is the end, my only friend
The end of our elaborate plans
The end of everything that stands
The end
No safety or surprise
The end 
I'll never look into your eyes again 

Can you picture what will be 
So limitless and free 
Desperately in need of some
...stranger's hand 
In a desperate land 

Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain 
And all the children are insane 
All the children are insane 
Waiting for the summer rain 
There's danger on the edge of town 
Ride the King's highway 
Weird scenes inside the gold mine 
Ride the highway West, baby 

Ride the snake
Ride the snake 
To the lake
To the lake

The ancient lake, baby 
The snake is long
Seven miles 
Ride the snake

He's old
And his skin is cold 
The West is the best 
The West is the best 
Get here and we'll do the rest 

The blue bus is calling us 
The blue bus is calling us 
Driver, where are you taking us?
The killer awoke before dawn
He put his boots on 

He took a face from the
...ancient gallery 
And he walked on down the hall 

He went into the room where his
...sister lived
And then he paid a visit to his brother
And then he walked on down the hall
And he came to a door
And he looked inside 
Yes, son?
I want to kill you 
Mother, I want to... 

Come on baby, take a chance with us 
Come on baby, take a chance with us 
Come on baby, take a chance with us 
And meet me at the back of the blue bus 

This is the end, beautiful friend 
This is the end, my only friend
The end 

It hurts to set you free 
But you'll never follow me 

The end of laughter and soft lies 
The end of nights we tried to die 

This is the end 

This phenomenal work of entrancing sound, chilling imagery and Oedipal fury began as something much less formidable - a lover's goodbye sung over some hypnotically pretty chords. But during their long nights at the London Fog and then the Whisky in the summer of 1966, The End became one of the songs they would stretch out in all directions with free-form improvisation.

As the musical scope increased, Jim started incorporating more enigmatic lyrics from his Venice notebooks, and began to use the band's shifting, dramatic musical interplay as a back-drop for his own free-form flights of poetry.

The Strip began to buzz with talk of the Doors' unfettered, wildly entertaining shows at the Whisky, when Jac Holzman first saw the band. He was not immediately impressed, but something drew him back night after night, until on the fourth night, he approached the band with a recording offer.

Two nights after the Doors were signed to Elektra, they had another show at the Whisky - their first as the hot new band with a brand new record deal. Jim never showed. At the conclusion of the first set, Ray and John walked over to Jim's hotel room.

At first, they thought Jim wasn't there, but then heard some shuffling around, and demanded that he open the door. Allegedly, Jim opened the door and greeted them with the words 'ten thousand mics' - meaning presumably, that he had ingested roughly 40 times the "average" LSD dose.

Ray and John helped Jim get dressed, which proved no easy task, but finally he was trundled into a car and taken over to the Whisky.

Jim had a rough time getting through most of the set that night, but when they reached The End, he was suddenly in synch, proceeding to give one of the most riveting performances of his career.

When he came to the extended middle section, he performed the eerie Oedipal drama which would become the song's hallmark for the first time. The nearly silent crowd watched intently as Jim built to his crescendo.

Avid rock fan Paul Body had been catching the Doors at the Whisky all summer, and he was there that night. He remembers: "When Morrison said 'Father? Yes son, I want to kill you. Mother? I want to. . .fuck you!!' my buddy and I looked at each other and asked 'Did he say what we think he said?'" Body remembers that the crowd didn't quite know what to make of the performance. "Quite a few people just couldn't believe he'd really said it, and others just tried to pretend it wasn't a big deal. The teenybopper scene had faded out, Dylan was on the charts, and I guess some people thought the next logical step was 'Mother, I want to fuck you.'"

This logic obviously escaped Whisky owner Elmer Valentine, who promptly fired the Doors after the show.

While Morrison may have created the Oedipal section of The End on stage that night at the Whisky, the myth of Oedipus (who unknowingly killed his father and married his mother, and when made aware of that fact, ashamedly plucked his own eyes out), there are earlier indications of Jim's fascination with the myth.

In the winter of 1965, Judy Raphael was a UCLA film student and friend of Ray Manzarek. She was trying to get a term paper finished one night when she had a visit from Ray, Jim and another UCLA buddy, John Debella. "They'd all been drinking at the Lucky U and Jim had gotten himself all doped up on someone's asthma medication. My paper was supposed to be about the history of documentary film, and all Jim kept saying was 'I think it should be about Oedipus - Kill the father. Fuck the mother.' He went off on that until I made them take him away."

After the Whisky show, the Doors continued to play The End with the Oedipal section, and it never lost any of its power to shock and transform the listeners.

Many of the phrases and images in The End remain as enigmatic as when Jim first sang them, but Los Angeles native, poet, journalist and record producer Harvey Kubernick can shed some light on one piece of the puzzle. Kubernick doesn't know where the "ancient lake" is, or what the "seven mile snake" looks like, but he does know about "the blue bus".

"Back then, we all had a sense of regional pride when we heard Jim Morrison say 'Meet me at the back of the blue bus.' We knew that the blue bus was the bus that went down Pico Boulevard - the bus that took us to the beach for a quarter. I believe it was the number 7. As young fans of the Doors music, we didn't talk too much about Freud or Oedipus, but we got very excited every time Jim mentioned that blue bus."

[Paul Rothchild, the Doors' producer, relates the story of recording "The End" in his 1981 interview with BAM. He felt that was one of the most significant moments of his entire career.

Jim also had some interesting commentary on The End in an interview he gave to John Carpenter of the Los Angeles Free Press.

Song Notes:

Richard Walls of Creem Magazine wrote in retrospect that The End remains an audacious combination of impeccable musicianship (some of Densmore's finest moments), genuine poetry, and psychedelic bullshit. In a review in the New York Times Magazine Richard Goldstein, one of the first to praise the song, wrote that the song "revolves around the theme of travel, both physical and spiritual, and builds to a realization of mood rather than a sequence of events," opening with "visions of collapsing peace and harmony" and "ending with violent death". Densmore wrote that the song, "loosely based on classical Indian ragas", built from the subdued first third of the "hypnotic droning sound" to a "musical orgasm" in the "turbulent finale". Yet there is, as Goldstein also wrote, a danger of interpreting a song like The End so academically because the song's value is in its "freedom to imply".

In a 1969 Rolling Stone interview with Jerry Hopkins, when asked what this song meant to him, Morrison replied the song meant something different every time he heard it - it began as a simple "goodbye song" and it's imagery was "sufficiently complex and universal" to mean almost anything to anybody. Morrison said that The End as well as WTMO were "constantly changing free form pieces" and were at "the height of their effect" when they were recorded. Pichaske echoed Morrison's view, stating that The End is probably "better music than poetry, better theater than music", and allowed the Doors to lyrically and musically perform the song as the whims of a particular performance moved them, "a script to be interpreted and re-interpreted, with much room for ad-libbing".

The hint that danger waits at the edge of town expresses the need to take a chance by going to the edges of the world of man. Once there, Morrison moves into the journey motif, expressing the need to seek freedom. The archetypal image of the west, (the end of the journey, the unknown) imply the undertone of death, and the ancient lake symbolizing duality; entrance to the spirit world, and at the same time, rebirth. (The cauldron of Cerridwen, the Holy Grail, the Waters of life.)

In the end, there is resignation, Morrison constantly seeking sanctuary, symbolically finds it by setting free the one sure companion of life he now recognizes - death, the end. His searching for freedom ends here as well. Since all other attempts to find 'freedom' have failed, "the end' is the point at which he 'breaks through to the other side.'"

Song Notes: Jim on the Oedipal Section:

Jim talked a bit about the meaning of the Oedipal section of The End in his summer of 1968 interview with John Carpenter of the Los Angeles Free Press (also available to read in the Interviews Archive)

JC: How did the ending of The End come about? Is the Whisky a Go-Go story true?

JM: I used to have this magic formula, like, to break into the subconscious. I would lay there and say over and over "Fuck the mother, kill the father. Fuck the mother, kill the father". You can really get into your head just repeating that slogan over and over. Just saying it can be the thing. . .That mantra can never become meaningless. It's too basic and can never become just words, 'cause as long as you're saying it, you can never be unconscious. That all came from up here.

Paul Rothchild also said of Jim's "mantra" that he believed the Oedipal section served as a metaphor for "coming of age" - "I believe he meant this in the context of breaking free of the structure of ideas enforced and instilled by the parents, and taking the muse for one's own."

Copyright 2003 by The Doors, Chuck Crisafulli/

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